Thailand

Thailand

Bangkok

Bangkok-5

Our time in Thailand was bookended by Bangkok. Here we explored many temples, went to some shopping malls, wandered through neighborhoods, and just discovered what the city had to offer. One of our favorite activities was just taking a boat ride down the river to whichever destination we were headed towards. This is also where we started our love affair with 7/11. Thailand has more 7/11’s than any other country and it was always a welcome sight when we found one. We frequented these, picking up everything from snacks to full blown meals, and it was always good. We definitely used it as a crutch when we didn’t want to go out to a restaurant for a meal.

On our first full day we took the skytrain into the city, then hopped onto a longtail boat to bring us down the river and to the Grand Palace. Getting off the boat we were swarmed with people trying to sell us all sorts of souvenirs. We ended up getting a skirt and pair of elephant pants to cover ourselves up, since you’re not allowed to wear shorts into any temples in Thailand. Built in 1782, and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Grand Palace was a quite impressive sight. There wasn’t much shade anywhere on the grounds and it was scorching hot and very crowded with tourists. That aside, it was still really cool to walk through and see the sights. Also located with the grounds was Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. One of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand, it contains a Buddha carved from a single block of jade (no pictures were allowed). After wandering through the Grand Palace we went over to Wat Pho, another famous temple complex. Here is home to the Reclining Buddha, which was way bigger than either of us had expected.

In Bangkok we also met up with our friend Kellen, who has been living there for some time now. It was nice to have someone who knows the area give us tips on places to go, how to say certain phrases, and answer any questions we had. One of the things we wanted to do while here was visit a night market. Suggested to us was Asiatique, a market slightly down the river with loads of restaurants and vendors selling all sorts of clothes and crafts. We had such a good time here that we returned when we came back to Bangkok with Jackie.

We also knew we had to go to one of the many rooftop bars in the city. There was a ton to choose from but we ended up going to the Sky Bar, which was made famous by “The Hangover Part II.” 63 floors up, it offered amazing views of the whole city.

After visiting both Northern and Southern Thailand, we returned to Bangkok for a few days before we flew out to Nepal. One of the temples we explored this time was Wat Arun. Also known as the Temple of Dawn, it was an impressive sight. On our last day in Bangkok we took a tour to a floating market that was just outside the city. We boarded a longtail boat and we took us down the river. The boat ride over to the market was really interesting because we went down some side canals and got a view into some of the more local houses on the river. The market itself was pretty small but we ended up buying a bunch of really cheap, really yummy snacks.

We spent an entire month in Thailand and overall we loved it! The food was great, the people were great, and we were really just starting to get accustomed to daily life there. We could have easily spent another month there, and we definitely hope to return one day. We would want to explore the north a little bit more and check out some of the other islands, but we wouldn’t be opposed to revisiting any of the places we went.

Thailand

Phuket & Ko Phi Phi

Phuket-6

We’ve been busy this past month! We wrapped up our Thailand adventure by going to Phuket, exploring some of the islands, and then returning to Bangkok for a few days. Then it was off to Nepal to explore Kathmandu and trek through the Himalayas to Annapurna Base Camp. We’re currently staying in Pokhara for a couple days and sorting out our plan for our next destination – India!

We flew from Chiang Mai down to Phuket, a large province in Southern Thailand, and got to explore a good chunk of it. Our first few nights were in Phuket Town, and somewhat like Chiang Mai’s Old Town, it was definitely real Thailand and not a super touristy section. We spent our time here walking around and relaxing a bit. One night we even stumbled upon a local arts festival, where we saw elementary to high school age kids performing traditional dances, singing songs, and playing in bands.

After Phuket Town we went to Ko Phi Phi Island, which one of the top places Elly wanted to see in Thailand. It definitely met our expectations. The island was more touristy than anywhere we’d been so far, but that didn’t detract too much from the actual beauty of the island. Plus, we knew what we were getting into. We took the 2 hr long ferry from Phuket over to the island and the first day we spent exploring the island and the beach. The island is super small – there are no cars and you can easily walk from one end to the other.

The main thing we did here was a sunset boat tour which ended up being one of our favorite days of the trip so far. The first stop on the tour was to a place called Monkey Island – which is exactly what it sounds like. It was so cool – tons of monkeys running around everywhere!

The 2nd stop was at a place called shark point – again the name says it all. We snorkeled here and only saw one shark but also saw a ton of colorful fish. Then we finally headed over to Maya Bay which is a main tourist destination in Thailand and it was easy so see why – easily one of the prettiest places we’ve ever seen. It was made famous by the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. After spending the afternoon at the beach we got to see the most amazing sunset from the boat. We ended the night by snorkeling in the pitch black – and when we would wave our hands through the water the glow plankton would light up.

After the tour we experienced the crazy island night life. All along the beach every night are fire dancers, buckets of alcohol, drinking games, all to blasting EDM music. The fire dancers were really fun to watch – twirling fire and throwing it up as high as they could in the air.

After 3 days on Ko Phi Phi we headed back to Phuket to meet Elly’s friend Jackie. This was a really fun week! It was nice to see someone we knew and we spent the week lounging on the beach, eating delicious street food, doing another island tour, and playing with more elephants! We stayed on Patong beach the whole time which was pretty crowded but that was fine. Right off of Patong beach is Bangla Road – which gets crazy after dark. You can’t walk 2 feet without someone trying to get you into a bar for a deal on a drink but it’s still fun to experience.

Southeast AsiaThailand

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

ChiangMai-14

One of the main things we wanted to do in Chiang Mai was to visit an Elephant Sanctuary. This turned out to be one of our favorite things we’ve done so far. We started the day by cramming into the back of a pickup truck (there were benches for seats) and driving north almost 2 hours into the jungles of Thailand. When we got to the Sanctuary, we changed into traditional Karen tribe clothes and hiked through the jungle to see the elephants. It was even better than we expected once we first saw them. There were six adults and one baby (only a year old!) It was so fun feeding the elephants bananas and having them take them out of our hands with their trunks. We were told an adult elephant normally eats between 200-600 lbs of food a day and spend a good chunk of their time looking for food. After feeding them for a bit, we went off to have lunch for ourselves, which consisted of traditional Thai foods. In the afternoon it was time to bathe the elephants. It was pretty funny watching them walk into the small watering hole and plop down into the water. The baby was the most energetic, rolling around in the water and splashing everyone. After getting wet it was time for their mud bath. Elephants need the cooling effect of mud to regulate their body temperature, especially when it can get so hot in Thailand. The mud acts as a protection against sunburn and also provides relief from mosquitos and other insects. After the mud baths we said goodbye to the elephants and rode back into the city. An amazing day!

Southeast AsiaThailand

Chiang Mai

ChiangMai-25

After a couple days in Bangkok, we took the night train to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. We bought the 2nd class Sleeper tickets and were a little nervous about what our situation would be like but it ended up being totally fine. We had two seats opposite each other and after about an hour or so one of the train workers came around and turned the seats into beds; one on the floor and one hanging down above it. After the 14 hour journey, we arrived in Chiang Mai around 9am.

Thankfully, we were able to check into our hostel right away, so we could drop our bags and head into the city. While Chiang Mai is the second biggest city in Thailand, it is pretty relaxed and way less hectic than Bangkok. We stayed right outside the Old City, the main center which is bordered by a 600 year old moat and surrounded by walls. Within this area there are over 300 or so temples. We ended up walking through a lot of the bigger ones, and they were all very cool to see.

Tuk Tuks lined up waiting for passengers

Not bad for $1.27 !

Our first couple of days we wandered around through the Old City, looking for whatever cool place to eat or temple to walk through. We saw signs for Muay Thai fights almost everywhere we went, and we definitely wanted to go to one – so we headed to Thapae Stadium to see what they were all about. The ‘stadium’ was really just a large hall with plastic chairs and tables set up around the boxing ring. Some of the fights we could tell weren’t real; with fighters falling over at the slightest hit and all smiling to themselves, and there were also some more straightforward ‘joke’ fights, such as a few blindfolded guys flailing into each other. As the night progressed though, there were some real no holds-barred fights. The main fight was between a local Thai fighter and a contender who came in from South Korea. It was a close match, but in the end the South Korean won – luckily, since Cory bet 50 baht on him.

Every night of the week there is a market of some sorts in different areas of Chiang Mai. One of the biggest is the Sunday Market. Here, people from northern Thailand sell all sorts of goods, crafts, and food. It was really fun just wandering through and taking it all in. When looking for somewhere to eat (we settled on crocodile skewers) we also saw a stall selling all sorts of creepy bugs. We stood there looking, debating if we should actually spend money to try any or not. A Japanese mother and her daughter next to us were thinking the same thing themselves, but curiosity eventually overtook them and they ended up buying a cup of worms. They were kind enough to share some with us, so we all got to try them together. We’d be lying though if we said they tasted any good…

We spent our last few days in Chiang Mai checking out a couple more temples and really just relaxing. One of our favorites was Wat Chedi Luang temple, which was built sometime between 1385 and 1402, and actually used to be twice as tall as it is now. We explored the temple as the sun was setting which made it even more spectacular.

Overall, we really enjoyed Chiang Mai but now we’re ready to escape the concrete and head south to the beaches! Phuket is up next.